Mental Healthcare during COVID-19
The COVID -19 pandemic is new and therefore there is no prior knowledge about it that can be used as a reference point for its eradication. It is unpredictable and ambiguous. It is a disaster; a natural catastrophe that causes great loss of life. It is unique in that the threat (virus) cannot be seen with the naked eye.
These characteristics, as well as the need for social isolation, have led to an increase in anxiety in the community. The reactions to the pandemic have ranged from anger, fear, denial, confusion, restlessness and depressed mood. There is also a sense of loss; loss of control; loss of income; loss of freedom of movement, etc. The increased insecurity further aggravates the anxiety.
According to Elizabeth Kubler – Ross these are normal emotions that occur in the change curve as a result of a dramatic life-changing situation like COVID -19. The final stage of this curve is acceptance, during which one begins to employ coping mechanisms. One is receptive to new information and gets into a state of growth. This helps to us to resume life in ‘the ‘new normal’; accept realities and work towards increased productivity.
General information for coping with negative emotions during the pandemic:-
For those who are suspected to have COVID-19 and have been quarantined or are in social isolation, provision of adequate care is required. These individuals need to be encouraged to have a positive mindset which will help in their recovery if found to have the virus. While in isolation, encourage contact with family and friends to share their experience and maintain the feelings of connectedness; read, watch movies and listen to motivational talks online.
The high- risk group which include the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions need to be encouraged to stay away from crowds, eat well and exercise regularly. This group requires to be checked on regularly therefore scheduled calls are very important.
Children will be anxious during such periods because they can sense that ‘things are not normal’. Inform them about what is going on in a language that is appropriate for their age. Answer their questions truthfully in a language they understand. Instil hope and establish a routine for them while at home. Signs that a child may be affected emotionally include changes in appetite, sleep, behaviour and regression to a previous developmental stage like bedwetting for someone who had stopped. Besides, they may be ‘rude’ and more clinging than usual.
In adolescents, social isolation can easily lead to loneliness which may trigger mental health symptoms. Let them express themselves and ask how you can support them. Allow them ‘me’ time, explain what is happening and normalise their feelings. Adolescents derive most of their social support from friends and peers. It is therefore important to keep them connected to their friends through virtual platforms like zoom where they can interact. Positive interaction using forums for church/ religious activities, painting competitions, karaoke, trivia, etc can be established. The developmentally delayed, shy, or children and adolescents with unique environmental circumstances need special attention. Parents/ caregivers could search online for communities that they can reach to help engage their children.
Individuals working from home could practice self- care by maintaining a routine similar to that they would have had in the office which involves taking breaks when appropriate.
Finally, it is important to reduce stigma and discrimination towards those who have suffered COVID -19 or been quarantined. This will enable those infected get appropriate healthcare and reduce transmission rates. Individuals should strictly to adhere to the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health / WHO.
Those who still experience emotional problems despite the coping mechanism provided are advised to seek individual, group or couple counselling. Some of the institutions that offer psychological support are:-
Parenting Children and COVID-19
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot has happened worldwide. The world has witnessedunfathomable suffering in adults and children. The pandemic has been declared a human, economic and social crisis (WHO, 2020). The coronavirus has attacked societies at the core. Previously, it was reported that children have some natural immunity to covid-19 and that if they got infected, the disease would be mild.
However, evidence shows that this is not the case. Coronavirus affects children and families with far-reaching effects. Individuals have experienced financial challenges as a result of business closure or scaling down. The loss of income has made life difficult for parents, as they struggle to care for their children and make ends meet.The whole world is bustling with worry, uncertainty and questions; how long will the pandemic last? What will our lives be like once the pandemic is over? How many of us will survive the pandemic?
Children’s lives have been turned upside down. As a result of the lockdowns and curfews, they cannot go to school, spend time with friends, or even visit playgrounds like they used to do. They are thereforelikely to experiencefear, worry and anxiety. To them, COVID-19 appears to be a phenomenal issue that everyone is talking about and has placed many restrictions that never used to be in place; wearing masks, social distancing, having temperatures checked,hand washing and sanitizing. Their lives have changed drastically. Additionally, some are old enough to learn through the media that people may die due to COVID – 19 infection. This increases their anxiety about the possibility of death occurring in their families, being put under quarantine, isolation or hospitalization; issues that they may not fully understand.
Children no longer have the structured life and stimulation that was provided by the different environments that they were exposed to. They have fewer opportunities to be with their friends and get the social support that is essential for healthy psychological and social development. Furthermore, having children at home may place them at heightened risk of child abuse. They may also witness increased incidences of interpersonal violence in a home that is not safe. These are issues of great concern to parents. Recently, there have been increased reports in the mainstream as well as in the social media of abuse against children, teenage pregnancies etc; which can be emotionally draining.
To alleviate the aligned worry, fear and stress,below are five simple tips that could work for you and your children:-
Finally, be alert to signs of stress and anxiety in your children.Should you feel need for more support: contact DeKUT University Counseling Department for mental health and psychosocial support for you and your children during COVID -19 pandemic.
(Additional sites for reference)
“I hope we will be better people when all of this is over.”